Clarke aims to put paunch in past by turning to rugby trainer
When one thinks of Darren Clarke the physique of a Courtney Lawes does not spring to mind. But as he sets out on a new campaign, the 43-year-old has employed the England rugby team's sports scientist and is obeying a similar monastic lifestyle to the lock and his Red Rose colleagues.
Jonathan Bloomfield, an integral part of the England coaching staff, has signed up to become the Open champion's full-time fitness advisor as Clarke at last makes the commitment his management believe is critical if he is to build on last year's major breakthrough.
Bloomfield, a fellow Ulsterman who is based in Belfast and has also worked with the Ulster rugby team, was recommended by Lee Westwood's fitness guru. Steve McGregor was enlisted with finding the right person to inspire a character, famous for his paunch and love of Guinness, into gym action.
Bloomfield has certainly been working Clarke hard since linking up at the start of the year and the effect will already be noticeable when he tees it up in today's first round of the Volvo Golf Champions event in Fancourt, South Africa.
"I am a lean, mean fighting machine," said Clarke, himself a promising back-rower in his teens. Yet the biggest change will not be discernible. For the first time in his long career, Clarke will be wearing contact lenses. Bloomfield even tested Clarke's eyesight and discovered an imperfection which showed why he may have a propensity for missing putts on the left. This has been a total overhaul.
"My career has been extended by winning the Open and I just thought 'enough is enough' – it's time to get myself in better shape," explained Clarke. "Jonny's got me doing all sorts in the gym, having my eyes checked out, nutrition etc. Therefore my alcohol consumption is taking a massive dint... it's currently down to zero."
Clarke is also trying to quit smoking as well as cut down on a ferocious caffeine habit. So much for all those whispers that Clarke was happy to sit back and enjoy the life of a major winner. "I have gone on diets and had exercise regimes before but not to the extent of having the experience of the guy who is with me now and all these scientific methods," said Clarke, who went on to explain how the benefits may be as much mental as physical.
Despite realising his boyhood dream, Clarke finished last year deeply despondent with golf and fearful that he will never be able to replicate his Sandwich heroics. Contrary to his public image, Clarke has always been obsessive about practice and this compulsion turned detrimental amid all the frustration. A challenge for Bloomfield – who will have to decide whether it is possible to fulfil both his England and Clarke commitments – will be to limit Clarke's exhaustive and destructive sessions.
"Jonny will get me off the range and into the gym instead of spending too many hours beating my head against a brick wall," said Clarke. "This [fitness route] has worked for Lee and it is something I am taking very seriously."
Clarke will be hoping for a quick start in the limited event on the Western Cape. Only 35 players line up in a field comprising winners on the European Tour last year, as well as players who have 10 or more titles on their Tour résumé.
Players such as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy have elected to begin their campaigns in Abu Dhabi next week, but with the likes of Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and the England wonderkid Tom Lewis, competition will be tough for the near £300,000 first prize on a spectacular links layout.
Latest in Sport
Luckless Abou Diaby full of confidence as he attempts yet another Arsenal comeback
Arturo Vidal: Midfielder must ask to join Manchester United, say Juventus
Scottie dogs in Commonwealth Games opening ceremony 'disrespectful to Muslims', say Malaysian politicians
Calum Chambers joins Arsenal: Gunners complete £16m transfer of right-back
Manchester United latest: Angel Di Maria move no closer as Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing
- 1 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow
- 4 Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter
- 5 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?